Weekly Math Themes for Remote Learning

To cope with my own angst during these extraordinary times, but also to help breathe life into remote learning, I’ve begun exploring using weekly “themes” for Algebra 2. For the sake of my own sanity, I’m haven’t been looking to tie the themes directly to my Algebra 2 curriculum. I’m not fighting that battle right now. Instead, the themes will be filled with lots of tangential math that is generally interesting and useful. I’m also aiming to give my kids more exposure to the cultural and social underpinnings of math. These interactions will be surface-level by design; casual glances that may or may not stir something deeper within my students. I’m OK with this. With no state-testing breathing down our necks, my only hope is to escape the vice grips of the Common Core a little bit. I simply want to add dimension to our class. Alternatives. And, who knows, maybe this work will spark something that lingers when we resume the regularly scheduled program.

So, each week, in addition to the scaled-back algebra 2 content, I plan on offering up videos and readings that elicit the theme for that week and then ask my kids to produce something. This past week, for example, the theme was mathematical genius. I had the students watch a clips about Terry Tao, Jaxon Cota, and Magnus Carlsen, while also read this blog post. I then had them write a short reflection on their noticings, wonderings, and any themes they saw. (I got this whole theme idea passively from Benjamin Dickman, who posted his weekly plans for his Problem Posing class. Of course, I stole his first theme and resources.)

There is around two months of school left and I’m going to figure out the themes as I go. I have been brainstorming, though, and I want to dump my early deas into this post. I’ve been reading Mathematics for Human Flourishing by Francis Su — which is stocked with inviting ideas. I may pull from these as time passes.

Here’s what I have so far for possible themes, some related resources, and possible student outputs. It’s messy and incomplete, so bear with me.



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